I Made It!!!

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I arrived in England just over a week ago with my Tier 2 work visa and it only took me a year to get here! I’m also happy to report that I had absolutely no hassle from Immigrations at the airport. I sent off my HCPC application in October 2012 and arrived in the UK with my work visa in October 2013. Now, that’s not to say that it will take everyone a year for the process because it may happen quicker for others. Maybe you are on the Tier 5, or you were able to do a job interview via Skype from your home country, or maybe the council you interview with is on the ball and very efficient, or maybe you had a smooth application with HCPC.

In the last week or so I have opened up a bank account, sent off my Canadian driver’s license (eek!) and passport off to the DVLA in exchange for a UK provisional driver’s license, requested application for a National Insurance Number (NI Number) and registered with a physician. I am still using a pay as you go SIM card, but will apply for a more financially feasible phone plan once my bank account details are in place.I won’t get my Canadian driver’s license back, but my passport will be returned. I have to wait until I get my passport back before I can post my NI Number application because although I took photocopies of the ID page and visa of my passport, it also asks for a copy of the entry stamps I have had to previously enter the UK.

So, slowly but surely, everything is coming together. I start work pretty soon and am really looking forward to it. The past year has been such a roller coaster of emotions, because on top of getting a work visa, I was trying to work on my long distance relationship with my SO where we went from being 5000 miles away to all of a sudden living together!! Definitely some growing pains happening there!! But I’m beginning to feel more settled and attempting to establish my identity here. I have joined a few social groups on www.meetup.com which is such a great way to meet people. As I’ve moved around, this site has always helped me in creating a social circle.

I’m excited about Halloween and have already carved my pumpkin. I’ve heard that trick or treating is growing in popularity here so it’ll be fun to experience this in the UK. Also, I’ve been hearing a lot about Guy Fawkes Day where people light fireworks and gather around bonfires which celebrates the fact that King James I in 1605 survived the attempt on his life…and that attempt was made by Guy Fawkes. So this day celebrates that plots failure. Apparently, people in Britain burn effigies of Guy Fawkes. Should be an interesting night!

And as usual…I will continue with posts about my experience of living life as a Canadian and a Social Worker in the UK!

Happy Halloween!!

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Frequently Asked Questions

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I get a lot of great feedback and questions from readers (which I love to get!) and so I wanted to compile a list of the most Frequently Asked Questions. I will continue to update this post as I get more information, and please do not hesitate to tell me if any of the information I posted is incorrect!

What was your experience like with HCPC and what information did you provide?

I have written a blog post specific to my experience with HCPC entitled “Registration with HCPC” which outlines my experience and what information I provided. You should provide any and all information, which combined, shows how you have met the Standards of Proficiency outlined for Social Work that is listed on their website. Many of the SoP’s were satisfied with the Bachelor of Social Work course outlines I provided.

Would HCPC accept someone with a Bachelor of Social Work degree or someone who is finishing up their degree in Bachelor of Social Work?

To my knowledge, a student who is in the process of obtaining their Bachelor of Social Work degree cannot apply for HCPC. You do not need a Master of Social Work to register. A Bachelor of Social Work should be sufficient, provided you can meet the Standards of Proficiency for Social Work.

Should I apply to HCPC once I have been offered employment?

If you definitely know that you want to move to the UK and have the financial funds to do so, then don’t wait. It is up to the employer whether they are willing to wait the 4+ months it can take to register and also go through sponsorship and visa process. I say the more you have prepared, the better position you are in.

What is the job market like for Social Workers in the UK? Are there only jobs in Child Protection?

There are many jobs all over the UK for social workers; it’s just a matter of whether you have the skills and qualifications for the job and the appropriate visa. If you are applying under the Tier 2 Visa, it is limited to social work jobs in a “Children and Families setting”, so I solely focused on the area of Child Protection. I never explored what “Children and Families” entails other than Child Protection. But I have noticed many jobs in Mental Health and Adult Care. If you are applying under the Tier 5 visa, then you can work whatever job you like and recruiters can assist you in this aspect.

Which visa did you have when you were in the UK and applying for jobs?

I went to UK as a regular tourist where I could stay for a maximum of 6 months. I have shared my experience with the Immigrations officer at Heathrow airport upon my arrival in the blog post entitled “My Lovely Experience with Immigrations”.  I had to return back to Canada to apply for Tier 2 when I got a job. You cannot switch from one visa to another while you are in the UK. You have to go back to your home country. I did not qualify for the Tier 5 because I am past the age limit for it.

Please refer to the UKBA website for accurate and up to date information on visa requirements.

The job applications ask if I am eligible to work in UK? I need a visa and sponsorship…how should I answer this? 

I always checked that I was eligible to work in the UK…because I was…even though I needed a visa and to be sponsored. Usually the application does ask if you need a visa and/or need to be sponsored. Even if it doesn’t ask, I would write it somewhere in the application.

Can I volunteer while I am visiting the UK?

No, legally you are not allowed to volunteer if you are visiting the UK as a regular tourist/visitor. When I explored this, various organizations wanted to check my status in the UK. You are not even allowed to babysit, but people still do it.

Do I have to go to the UK and apply for jobs? Are employers willing to interview via Skype?

I never explored this option, but I am sure that some employers would be willing to do this.

How did you arrange for accommodations when you got to the UK?

My SO is a British citizen and resides in the UK. So I did not have to arrange any accommodations for myself.

The UK is so big, how did you choose where you wanted to work and live?

Since I would be living with my SO, who was already established, I chose to work close to where we would live-near South London. Do you want the busy city life or the countryside life? Look at the cost of living of various areas. How long would your commute time be? London is your best bet if you don’t want to get a car for your job. Every other area will require use of car. There are many LA’s who are familiar with the sponsorship process and are willing to sponsor. Look at OFSTED reports on the various LA’s to see how they are performing.

How do I contact Local Authorities?

Every local authority/borough has a website with a job section.  If you google London Boroughs, you will get a list of all the boroughs in London and then you can search each borough website. Many job posts will have phone numbers of managers that you can talk to about the position.

What were the interview questions and what did you study?

I have shared my interview experience in my blog entitled “Post Interview Meanderings”. I was asked very typical interview questions regarding my experience with various situations. I did a lot of research and inquiring about the relevant legislation/procedures and reports important to social work to show that I was familiar with their lingo. I was not asked any specific questions about legislation. There are many websites that provide helpful information in preparing for interviews.

Were there any UK agencies that assisted you with the transition of moving to the UK?

No. I did everything on my own and it required a lot of hard work and motivation. Recruiters are only helpful with obtaining locum positions (which is great if you are working under the Tier 5 visa!) but they do not help with the visa. They were of no help to me and only told me to apply directly to Local Authorities. I did a lot of googling!

How did you use Social Media?

LinkedIn and Twitter allowed me the opportunity to connect with Social Workers in the UK, but Twitter was especially helpful in keeping on top of current issues that affect social work. I love my Twitter network! Please refer to my blog entry “Making Connections in the UK”.

Can you suggest any resources for moving and practicing Social Work in the UK?

Google really is your friend here. I took information from bits and pieces of various sites and started putting things together…don’t worry…it will eventually start to make more sense! There are many, many recruitment agencies for social work but I will not list them here because I do not want to promote any of them. You just have to start contacting them if that’s the route you want to take.

http://www.canuckabroad.com/ 

http://www.meetup.com

http://www.basw.co.uk/

http://www.communitycare.co.uk/

http://www.nspcc.org.uk

**Please note that I am only an expert of my own experience and the information I have provided is based on my own research and knowledge. Please contact the appropriate authority for verification**

Visa approved

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I’m excited to report that I have received my Tier 2 work visa! What a relief…and it happened quite quickly. I completed my application online and was able to set up an appointment at the Worldbridge visa office a few days later in Canada. I went into the office and was advised that the application process can take 10-15 business days. I had paid extra for priority and was then told that it would then take 7-10 business days. They went through my application to make sure it was completed and I submitted current and previous passports, bank statements, passport photo and letter of offer from my employer. They also took my fingerprints and photo. Here’s what happened…I went to the visa office on a Monday and had my application and documents couriered to the office in New York on the same day. Tuesday I received an email saying that my documents were received. Wednesday I received an email saying that my visa was issued. Thursday my passport was returned to me via courier with my visa which is valid for 3 years. Voila! So quick. The visa cost 815 US + priority fee + courier fee, so that is mucho $$$. But I have booked my flight and am returning to England in 3 weeks. I was not able to fly back right away because the visa has a “Valid from” date.

I can’t wait to get back to the UK and to my SO where I can actually feel like we are starting our life together…although I know that the journey is not over yet.  Even though I have been issued the work visa, whether I am permitted to enter the country is at the discretion of the immigration officer at the airport. I am fairly positive that everything will be alright, but based on my past experience with immigrations…it ain’t over until I pass their test!

In the meantime, I am going to enjoy my time at home with family and friends…and also enjoy the luxury of long hot showers and a dryer!!

I’m Leaving…on a Jet Plane…

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Don’t know when I’ll be back again….

Yup, that’s right. I don’t. I finally got word that my sponsorship application was approved. Thank God. Now I can finally apply for my Tier 2 work visa. I had reviewed the paper application before and thought that I could just apply for the visa online and then book my appointment at the visa office in Canada to submit my additional documents and biometrics. Turns out there are some slight variations on the online application and I have to account for the past 10 years of travelling. Oy. I roughly know where I have travelled, but I’ll need to confirm dates via the stamps on my current and previous passports. I’ve done many quick trips over the US land border and I don’t know how the hell I am going to account for those ones. Oh yeah. I also have to account for my previous passports and luckily I do have them all (thanks dad!). Also I don’t want to actually hit the submit button while I am still in the UK because God forbid I have any issues with where I applied from. I am travelling home this week so will be able to get the process moving. It’s incredibly nerve wracking making sure I have all the accurate information on my application.

I do want to be a little more clear on the visa situation…I initially when to the UK as a tourist/visitor…the same as when we go to many countries just to do typical travelling/touring/visiting family and friends. You fly to your destination and go through immigrations at the airport as a regular tourist who is visiting the country. Although there is no paperwork involved, you get a stamp in your passport which is essentially the “visitor’s visa”. Typically you only have 6 months to be in a country as a tourist as is the case with the UK…the same applies when people visit Canada, they can visit for no more than 6 months. You cannot switch from one visa to another while you are in the UK. So essentially you cannot switch from a visitor’s visa to a Tier 2 visa while you are in the UK. You must go back to your home country to apply.

I wanted to speak to someone at the Worldbridge office in Canada because the UKBA website is not user friendly, and I wanted to be sure that I was submitting all the necessary documents. Worldbridge is the affiliate agency to UKBA that handles visa applications in Canada. They charge a whopping $3.20/minute to speak to someone in their call centre!! $3.20!!!! Totally ludicrous. So I emailed all my questions to Worldbridge instead, thinking I was smart. So they replied back only with links to the UKBA website for each question. Yah thanks…not helpful at all.

My bags are somewhat packed…well I have one suitcase inside another as I plan to bring even more stuff back with me to the UK. I have no idea how long I will be home for, so packing is a bit tricky. I do still have some clothes at home, although I can’t remember which ones, but I will take a chance and hope that they are weather appropriate. I’m really looking forward to seeing my family and friends and picking up some work shifts as well…and hoping that I’m not away from my SO for too long.

In addition to that, to date I’ve had a total of 4 invitations to interview, 3 of which I attended and was offered 2 positions. I did consider forgoing my current job offer and going with the one in London, but it just does not make any economical sense for me at this time. It’s just that…I love being in London! And I thought since I am not living there, the closest thing I could do is work there…but I would pay through the nose for the rail and I would literally have no life because my commute would be too long. I’m actually very happy to know that I am marketable and if I don’t end up liking where I am working, I do have the option of applying elsewhere.

Jeez…is this going to be over soon….???

Patience. Patience. Patience.

Road Trip!

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SO and I are off on a road trip to Scotland tomorrow for 10 days…mixing in a bit of remote island life with the hustle and bustle of the city life. We have the first 5 days planned and then the rest is up in the air…left to the universe to devise a plan for us. I am looking forward to the peace and quiet surrounded by wildlife and beautiful nature. Our wifi will be limited, but I’ll be taking my laptop just in case I feel inspired to blog while I am there.

So if you don’t hear from me for awhile…it’s because I’ve lost myself in tranquility…

Waiting…and more waiting…

It’s been a few weeks since my last post and I wanted to provide a quick update on my happenings! I have officially signed my contract with the Local Authority and they have applied to sponsor me with the UK Border Agency. This process will likely take a month and then I will fly home and apply for my work permit. So it seems like I won’t actually be working until October.

I was feeling slightly anxious about the position because I will doing long term work with children who are in care and so I met with my new supervisor to introduce myself and to find out more information. He was very friendly (which was a relief) and quite transparent and I felt at ease with him. The work sounds very exciting and will cover a whole range of areas with the children. My one main concern is that I will be attending court which sounds so scary! I was assured that I would be provided training and that once I have done it once…it won’t feel as daunting because I’ll know what to expect. Still…I am not looking forward to that because it is my biggest fear…being interrogated on the stand! But I am going to have to look at it as a learning experience and an opportunity to face my fear. If I can accomplish this feat, then I will feel like I can do anything!

The supervisor and the team seemed supportive, but one never knows if it’s real or it’s just the façade of a team that is just trying to welcome the newbie. I will not know until I’m actually there. The only unfortunate part is that I will likely have to get a car. It was not stipulated anywhere in the job description so I can’t be forced to buy one…but it will make my job and life difficult if I am reliant on public transport and the trains to visit children who are potentially all over England. If I had been recruited on to a different team, then I wouldn’t need a car because the assessments would only be conducted on children and families who live within the boundaries of the local authority and the public transport system is very efficient to assist with that effortlessly.

Buying a car is just another added cost that will significantly dip into the already low salary I will be receiving. In comparison to Canada, social workers here get paid significantly less…so that was a shock to me. Buying a car means learning the roads…and possibly taking the manual test…aaaahh!!!! So many new things to learn!

But all I can do for now is enjoy the rest of the summer while I’m not working (I know…cry me a river right?) before it’s time to fly back home and then fly back just in time for the cold weather 🙂

The Lovely French Countryside

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We recently went on a four day trip to the area of France called Carhaix, along with a few other couples. OneDSCF0101 of our friend’s has a family cottage in the countryside and was so kind to invite us along! I was expressing my excitement of “popping over” into France to which my friend replied “It’s only France!”. Well…see he is speaking like a true Brit who doesn’t appreciate the luxury of having Europe as its next door neighbour. In Canada, flying from one end of the country to the other is about 8 hours! All we have at our doorstep are neighbouring provinces and the US. Well I wasn’t going to let him poo poo on my excitement!

Our journey began on a 12 hour overnight ferry ride from Portsmouth to St Malo where we indulged in the amazing food at the buffet. We spent hours in the buffet eating prawns, crab, pasta, and the main course of roast beef along with drinks and eventually we shut the place down. We even had some champagne to toast to a few celebrations, including my successful interview!

The beginning of this trip pretty much set the scene for our whole trip…amazing fresh food and good qualityDSCF0111 wine!

We were so exhausted by all the good food and company that it was time to head to bed. We had a cabin for two with a bunk bed. Other than feeling a bit claustrophobic in the room, I was pretty impressed because it had an ensuite shower!

As we arrived in France and embarked on our two hour drive to the cottage, I was a bit weirded out on the roads in France because my SO was driving his British car on the right side of the road with the steering wheel on the right. It was strange but it felt so much more comfortable and I was noticing that I felt more relaxed…finally we were on the right and proper side of the road and the motor way was so spacious!

What we experienced was four days of bliss and it’s amazing what a little peace and quiet does for the soul. The weather was in our favour and it was blistering hot. Minus the day we made it to the beach and the storm approached an hour later! French bread, wine, cider and crepes…oh the crepes!!! Our friend had described his cottage as “rustic” but he slightly underplayed it. The photo of the cottage I have shown is the original cottage they bought and it really is just one big sitting room on the main floor with a massive fire place. It was DSCF0103beautiful. The top floor was another plain space which they had filled with beds. The larger cottage (which you can just barely see in the photo with the garden) was more spacious and had a very relaxed and homey feel to it. We relaxed, laid out in the sun, went to the beach and even went to a French music festival. Elton John was supposed to be playing at this festival but he had cancelled due to illness. Many people were saying that he would never had showed up anyway. It was mainly French singers and shockingly the drinks were reasonably priced. It was also my first exposure to one communal urinal for the men. Yup…it was one long continuous trough, and while the ladies were waiting in line to use the loo, the men just came and did their business all around us.

I had learned basic French in school because I am from Canada, ofDSCF0105 course. I attempted to communicate in French, which was fun, but the difficulty was when they spoke back in French. They talk just too damn fast! I could pick up a few words here and there and got the gist of their response, but I really wished I was more fluent in it.

We really didn’t want to leave but everyone had to go back to work and well…I…had to go back to doing nothing! Before we boarded the ferry, we had lunch at a restaurant called Les Bruyeres…the food was amazing and so was the service! And I actually tried the escargot which was delicious! We didn’t manage to get any grocery shopping done although I desperately wanted to take some pre-made crepes home with me.

We came back on a different ferry that was a 6 hour journey from Caen to Portsmouth. I really didn’t think about dealing with immigrations when we came back, but as soon as we hit the immigration line…I became incredibly nervous. The officer went through my passport page by page and asked if I had been questioned at Heathrow upon my arrival in April. We had to pull over so that he could ask more questions. I was so nervous and was recalling my traumatic experience at Heathrow! This differenceCidre between this experience and the one at Heathrow was that this officer was actually nice and transparent. He told me not to worry but that he has to ask me questions to understand what I am doing in the country. What he explained to me was that I had been granted a 6 month visitor’s visa in April, but since I left the country and came back, I would be issued a new 6 month visitor’s visa. The concern was that many people leave the country to extend their visitor’s visa and end up staying in England continuously and illegally. I hadn’t even thought about that and just assumed that I would carry on with my original visa. He expressed concern that I had done a lot of travelling in the past (as shown by stamps in passport) and could possible keep extending my stay in England. I was asked if I was working in the UK, how I am beinThe Storm's a-brewing at the beachg supported etc. I explained that I have interviewed for jobs and am well aware that I have to leave the country to apply for my visa. I had provided him with a copy of my return flight for September and was advised that my passport has been flagged and that I had to be on that flight back to Canada in September. This might have been a scare tactic but I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize my stay in England. The unfortunate part is that it means we likely won’t be travelling outside the UK before September because again, I don’t want to risk anything.

So here we are…back in England…and we can’t wait to go back again! I’ll be dreaming of other fantastic places to visit in Europe…once I start working…and start getting paid…

Getting closer…

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Last week, just before leaving for our trip to France, I decided to call the local council to inquire if they had already contacted the successful candidates. Instead of wallowing in my self pity and going through the interview in my head over and over again, it was best to put myself out of my misery and get feedback from my interview. I spoke to HR who told me that they had no information…which I thought was bizarre. Then I ended up calling the team manager directly and she said that she was actually going to call me that day! It turns out that I was successful in my interview and she wanted more information about the sponsorship required for my visa. Wow…what a relief and such a surprise! I know most people will just say they did poorly in the interview…but I genuinely thought I did. I had even started applications for 6 other councils because I knew time was running out on my visitor’s visa and I needed to find a job soon! Location was not important anymore. If I had to commute into London or buy a car…well that’s what I would have to do dammit! Anyways…the manager explained the reason for the delay in calling me and said that she is currently awaiting management approval for my visa sponsorship. It felt like a dream…and I notice that I tend to use the word ecstatic to describe how I was feeling…and I was no different on that day. I was ecstatic! It was so great to go on our trip to France knowing that I was successful in my interview…it allowed me to fully enjoy the holiday.

I am aware that both of my references have been contacted and have provided their reference checks. So now I wait to hear from the council that they will be able to provide sponsorship and then it’s time to head back to Canada to apply for the visa.

And of course, I will keep you posted on what happens. I am working on my blog of my trip to France…including getting questioned by Immigrations AGAIN…only this officer was so much nicer!

Post Interview Meanderings

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Yesterday was a hectic and sweaty day. I walked to my first interview at the local council and got a bit confused about which way I was going. Typically what I would have done is scoped out the building ahead of time so I would eliminate any anxiety about finding the place. But I foolishly thought that the route seemed fairly simple enough. I am used to a grid system so as I’m walking here and one road veers off and there are a bunch of other off roads, its hard to know which way to go. I had to ask a few people along the way. I managed to get there about 4 minutes before my scheduled interview time. I was sweating (I hate to sweat!) in my interview outfit and took a few moments to freshen up in the bathroom. Now I got to the interview in a panic and I wasn’t brought into the interview room until 15 minutes later. Typical.

I was placed in a room to complete the written exercise. I still had not met the interviewers yet, but was instructed by the administrative assistant. I opened up the exercise which was a case study and I was so happy because it asked that I follow a certain type of assessment which I studied and memorized. What a relief! I drew out the chart and completed as best I could in the 15 minutes that I had. And while I am completing the exercise, I was hearing Gagnam Style blaring outside…so that made me chuckle and eased some of my tension. So I rushed to complete it and they didn’t come for me until 20 minutes later…so the last 5 minutes I was in a panic and adding in whatever I could. Needless to say…my handwriting was very messy.

The rest is really a typical interview…there were 4 of them and I had been warned that one might be intimidating, but they were all very friendly. I struggled to answer a few of the questions and I could feel that there were things that I was missing in the answer, but I was having a total brain fart. I was asked at the end which team I would be interested in working with and confirmed that I would need to be sponsored. So maybe that’s a good sign??? I walked away from the interview not feeling so confident. I was more angry that I had studied my ass off and that I choked on some of the questions. I am usually very hard on myself, so maybe my perception of the interview was drastically different from that of the interviewers…I guess we’ll just wait and see. I know how to be a social worker, that I’m a good one, have loads of experience with an application and CV to back it up. I should know by the end of the week. Here they actually call and tell you that you did not get the position…which I haven’t experienced at home. If you don’t hear from the employer during a certain amount of time…it’s assumed that you didn’t get the position.

So this interview started later and took longer than expected. During the walk home, I kept going through the questions again and kicking myself for leaving out certain information. I rushed home…took a breather…cooled down…then headed to the train station for my journey to the hospital for interview #2. The walk/train/bus journey took about an hour and half. I gave myself plenty of time and got to the hospital about an hour before my interview. I was feeling very exhausted at this point. I had my interview with 2 supervisors and felt very good about this one. I felt that I gave a good interview and was happy with my answers. I was told that the position was highly competitive and I was congratulated on even just getting an interview. I left the interview feeling good…but also knowing that I didn’t want this position because the commute would just be too tiring. The job includes walking all over the hospital + doing home visits via bus or car + my commute to and from the hospital. I would be exhausted everyday.

Today I received a call from the hospital saying that I didn’t get the position. And honestly, I’m not upset about it. I was told that they really liked me and I gave a good interview, the unfortunate part was that the position was highly competitive and they had candidates who had the relevant experience and could hit the ground running. I was told to not let this deter me from applying for other posts because I have a lot of experience. I felt like the actors when they get nominated but don’t win…it was an honour to just be nominated…or should I say…to be selected for an interview!

One piece of helpful information to note is that the handshakes are very different here…in Canada and the US a firm handshake is very important for an interview. But over here, the handshake was very light and they don’t use their whole hand. I’m not sure how to describe it but it comes across more as “How do ya do?” rather than “Hello nice to meet you. I am serious and confident about this.”

So today I’ve been dealing with my anxious energy by cleaning the house from top to bottom…it has kept my mind off the impending phone call. And it has been helpful to write about what I’m feeling.

Tick tock…

The Night Before the Interview

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Well tomorrow is the big day! Not only do I have an interview with the local council, but I also got a call yesterday for an interview with a hospital. I’m feeling slightly nervous about 2 in one day, but I’m very excited about the opportunities I’ve been given. It will be a long day because I’ll be walking in the AM to interview #1 and then taking the train and bus to interview #2. I’ve got my bottle of wine already chilling in the fridge because I’ll be cracking that baby open as soon as I get home tomorrow!

I think I’ve done enough studying and my brain can’t take it anymore…wish me luck!!!